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Wake up! Boring Beltway budgetary gridlock is back

FILE: Sept. 10, 2013: House Speaker John Boehner, flanked by his leadership team on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C.AP

With Syria turning into a slog, are we back in the government shutdown business?

And is that kind of showdown going to feel particularly hollow after a real crisis?

For several weeks now, the confrontation with Damascus, including the gassing of innocent victims, the red line, the threat to go to war, the pullback, the congressional debate and the Russian plan, has dominated the news (that is, except for Anthony Weiner and Miley Cyrus).

But with the Syria story turning into a diplomatic slog, which I predict will tamp down the coverage for a while, it’s back to business as usual on the Hill. And that means yet another budget confrontation that could bring the gears of government to a halt.

Give me a minute to stop yawning.

“Once again,” says Politico, “the government is on the brink of a shutdown — it’s just 18 days away — and the House has left town with a flurry of legislative plans bouncing around. The Senate is rejecting every single one out of hand.”

“Facing another revolt by the House’s most ardent conservatives,” says the New York Times, “Republican leaders scrapped a vote this week on legislation that would keep the federal government financed through mid-December while ending financing for President Obama’s health care law.”

Even the president tried to make a pivot yesterday, touching briefly on Syria and a Cabinet meeting and then talking about “dealing properly with a federal budget” and “that the full faith and credit of the United States is preserved.”

I don’t mean to minimize the serious issues here, but we have been having this fight for well over two years.

Remember the supercommittee? Remember the sequester? Remember the fiscal cliff? Remember the New Year’s Day deal that avoided a shutdown?

These all revolve around artificial deadlines that pump up the drama because funding measures run out or the debt ceiling has to be raised, and the two sides dig in and can’t agree.

Reps. John Boehner and Eric Cantor don’t want to risk the fallout from another shutdown or near-shutdown. But they’ve got dozens of conservative members who are so determined to defund ObamaCare that they say they won’t vote for a bill to keep the government running.

It’s no secret that the leadership has had trouble keeping the caucus in line. So, the press is gearing up for another round of shutdown drama stories.

Boehner and Cantor supported Obama on military air strikes against Syria, but couldn’t bring many of their colleagues along on that, either.

So a government that couldn’t agree on Syria is once again deadlocked on the budget.

That doesn’t make for exciting journalism, but such is life inside the Beltway.

Vladimir Putin, Pundit

Why did the New York Times run yesterday’s op-ed by Vladimir Putin

The Russian leader, holding forth on Syria, said among other things that “millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ‘you’re either with us or against us.’”

Public Editor Margaret Sullivan put the question to editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal.

“I thought it was well-written, well-argued. I don’t agree with many of the points in it, but that is irrelevant,” Rosenthal said.

He added that “there is no ideological litmus test” for an op-ed piece, and that the purpose of the opinion pages is not to help or hurt the U.S. government.

Putin’s missive, even with its propaganda points, was clearly news, and I doubt many papers would have turned it down.

And no, he was not paid for his contribution.

Why Julie Chen Had Surgery

Julie Chen, co-host of the syndicated program “The Talk,” has made a confession about plastic surgery. And what makes this rise above gossip is her soul-searching explanation.

When she was a 25-year-old TV reporter in Dayton, she says, “I asked my news director … over the holidays if anchors want to take vacations, could I fill in? And he said, 'You will never be on this anchor desk, because you're Chinese.' He said 'Let's face it Julie, how relatable are you to our community? How big of an Asian community do we have in Dayton? On top of that because of your Asian eyes, I've noticed that when you're on camera, you look disinterested and bored.'”

Additionally, one agent told her, “I cannot represent you unless you get plastic surgery to make your eyes look better.”

Chen and her parents talked about “if this was denying my heritage, and whether or not I should have this done.” Eventually she did.

Her career took off after that. But Chen says she wondered, “Did I give in to the man?”

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz.

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